What's Inside our Heads?

A comic note on the most important things
Thanks to my linguist friends I accept as an axiom the fact that any language is wise. Sometimes it can be even wiser than most of those who speak it, even native speakers. Somehow, discussing codigos I realised that there is a certain paradox associated with inviting someone to dance with a glance and the way we call it. "Cabeceo" is about the head, not about the eyes. So why, then, we almost do not use the word "mirada" speaking of this glance-invitation?

Everything written below is just my theory. The essence of the theory is simple: cabeceo is not really about the invitation with a glance, but rather about the ability of your head to work in the context of milonga. And the quality of your dancing directly depends on what's inside your head. So, codigos is a list of verbalized, working, but not written postulates (or rules) from the General Tango Head. For me traffic rules look similar - as a set of rules, born on the basis of common sense.

Let me explain my idea.

For example, I come to milonga angry, hungry and with an obsessive intention to dance, because I think that dancing can help me fix everything and feel alright. Ridiculous, isn't it? Really, a person with such a request and in such a condition hardly will dance. It's only my problem that I come to milonga with the idea that that everyone owes me something without me giving something back. While there is an idea in my head "first you must give something to me, and then I'll think whether to give something to you" my tango life will be very sad. If you want to enjoy tango, you need to understand a few simple things.
Dance was not an end in itself, it was an instrument for building and consolidating social ties.
Initially, milongas were kind of a "social clubs" where the whole family could have a good time drinking coffee and eating desserts or socializing and dancing. Dancing was not necessary and it was not an end in itself. It was a consequence of communication or a way to create relationships. Especially between a man and a woman from different families. After all, without approval at this level, it is unlikely for a man to be invited to the house of a señorita. All these difficulties, of course, are in the past, but the idea that milonga is a special place where you come to relax and have a good time seems to me very true. If you want it to feel good you have to accept that first you have to "give", and just then to "receive".

In order to "give" easily and with pleasure, you have to make sure you're not starving, self-confident, relaxed. It is very important to understand that milonga is a place where everyone should feel good. Every single person. Once anyone being a little nervous goes to the dance floor, it affects the whole ronda. Sure, ronda is a flow, the unity of many moving dancers who respect each other. Dancers who respect themselves, their partners, the music and other tangeros. Just dance and let the others dance. Do not rush and do not tear around.

The more I see good rondas, the more I admire the power of being calm, accepting everything and being present here and now. Good dancers do not hurry and do not try to prove anything to anyone, they just enjoy their tango. A good dancer observes ronda's rules even while dancing fast crazy milongas or passionate tandas. There's a terrible lack of such calmness and respect in our big city. Here, many people become self-centered, because the quality of your life depends on this egocentric ability to prove that you are the best. Then somehow they get used to it and apply this method not only to work.

Nevertheless in tango everything is different. You have to learn how to feel the music, the space and the other person.

Being egoistic fatigues us. It doesn't let us take responsibility and enjoy the moment. Egoism feeds our fear of imperfection. An egoist finds it extremely difficult to accept his own imperfection and the fact that being wrong doesn't make you die. Let alone apologizing to another couple if something goes wrong. Only a calm person who has both feet on the ground can say "sorry" meaning "I feel like something went wrong, probably we both were the reason, but I want you to know, that I accept it and I regret that it happened." No drama, just trying to make everyone feel good. Anything could happen on the dance floor, but simple word "sorry" helps to keep the feeling of a single space comfortable for everyone.

If you come to milonga thinking "I love this world, these people and this music", you make miracles happen. Such an intention is born in your mind. When you strive to be the best version of yourself, it changes the world around you for the better.
If I accept myself as I am and do not seek for proving anything to anyone, I perceive another person as valuable and equal to myself.
Exactly the same works for cabeceo. If I accept myself and do not try to prove anything to anyone, if I unconditionally love myself and know that I'm okay, then I treat the other person similarly. Then we will act without taking something in evil part, and we will give to each other without neurotic desire to be paid back. So when I'm looking at a partner, my 'mirada' (let's call this glance according to tango rules=)) shows a genuine interest, like "hi, I'm glad you're here, let's go dancing, I want to share this beautiful music with you, it'll be fun". I keep this message in my mirada giving the partner right to agree or to refuse. So the partner will not run away or turn away from me. He or she will be calm realizing that the choice to refuse or to accept my invitation will not cause my disappointment or his/her feeling guilty. "No" is not forever, it means that our intentions are not coinciding right here and right now. It's not bad. You just have to take it easy. You know, it's like a child's phrase "Let's play" - "No, I don't want to play now" - "Ah, okay, then later".

By the way, let's discuss women's "responsibility" in tango. We play by men's rules, we strive for equal rights and emancipation, but "they play chess, and we play a giveaway game, and this is our advantage." Dear women, I beg you, be wise. If we assume that men control milonga space and manifest themselves actively, then our influence spreads in an invisible zone.

What do I mean? Here's an example. Let's imagine that you are invited to dance and the partner is so inspired by your "yes" and the music that he tries to break through table-barricades to ronda center. You should stop him (gently and smiling) and offer to enter the ronda from the other place (let it be the corner of the room). Calm the leader down, it's in your interest to do so. Watch the space behind the partner's back, if you dance with your eyes open. Always try to somehow let the nearest dancing couple know that you are going to enter the dancefloor.

Dear gentleman! If you don't ask the couple dancing towards you "permission" to enter ronda, if you try to dive into dancing stream immediately, you act with no respect.

Now almost everyone can drive, so imagine that entering ronda is like entering the circle. You have to give way to those who are already moving in a circle and to those who are going to enter it, too. You do everything carefully avoiding collisions. Just imagine that any "collision" in ronda would lead to calling the "road police" and insurance company, filling relevant documents and so on. Observe simple rules on the dance floor helps us to avoid "traffic jams" and keep the atmosphere positive.

We are not pressed for time, we are already in milonga, the partner has already agreed to dance with you. It's not difficult to wait a few seconds before embracing each other. We are here to enjoy.

Here's a favorite phrase of many dance teachers instead of a summary: "use your head, and you will be happy".
And be sure to read this manual on kodigos, when it when it is available in English. It's a cheerful text about the most important things, written very clear and with wonderful illustrations. Meanwhile you can enjoy it in Russian.
Author: Nataly Maystrenko. Photo: Anya Semenouk. Translation: Dunya Valova.
Opinions expressed in articles within this blog may not coincide with those of the editor.
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